Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who Was William Gilmore Simms?

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) was a very influential 19th-century southern writer who was nationally known and respected, second only to James Fenimore Cooper in popularity. Edgar Allan Poe considered Simms, "the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced." Simms was a prolific writer and perhaps more than any other 19th-century southern author, he gave an in-depth picture of the southern region.

Simms was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and lived most of his life in or around Charleston. However, he traveled widely, enabling him to incorporate his observations into his writings. His formal education was somewhat limited, but he more than made up for this lack in his extensive self-taught studies. Eventually he became a successful lawyer and served one term in the South Carolina House of Representatives.  After the death of his first wife, Simms married Chevillette Eliza Roach and through her marriage dowry he became head of a 4,000 acre plantation, Woodlands.  As a result of Simms’ literary stature, Woodlands became a center of literary activity with many distinguished visitors.

Woodlands, Simms' plantation home
Leading up to the War Between the States, Simms decidedly sided with the South and was outspoken against northern attitudes. When the war broke out, he continued to be politically involved in an advisory capacity to southern politicians and the Confederate military. He personally suffered heavy losses when Woodlands, his plantation, was twice burned—first in 1862 and again by terrorist Sherman’s men in 1865. Simms’ famous 10,000-volume library was destroyed by the invaders as well. Sadly, his wife had passed away in 1863, and then the destruction of his home nearly bankrupted him. He spent the rest of his life working relentlessly as a writer and editor in attempting to financially survive the aftermath of the horrible war.

During his life the prominent Simms published eighty-two works in a wide variety of genres including poetry, drama and orations, biography, history, short fiction, and novels in addition to editing several South Carolina newspapers and southern journals. Of his numerous novels, his most famous novel was The Yamassee: A Romance of Carolina. A fairly complete list of his numerous works is at this link.

In the years since the war, this prolific and influential Southern writer has been all but forgotten. Regardless of one’s view of the war, it is important to know that historically the South made significant cultural contributions to the United States. This literary figure is but one example, and I hope that with this introduction to Simms that you will find and enjoy his works.

Part of my William Gilmore Simms collection

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gloves in the Mid-1800s

Gloves have been worn for thousands of years. Some gloves were utilitarian, some were symbolic parts of a costume or ceremony, and some were purely a fashion accessory. Since at least the 17th century gloves have been available in three broad categories—leather, fabric, and knitted. Initially gloves were made entirely by hand. In the early 19th century technical innovations began to take place and eventually some mechanization was introduced later in the century.

In the 1860s, gloves are a fashion requirement. Though one can find exceptions in looking at CDVs, generally no lady would be out in public without her gloves. At this point in time gloves are wrist-length and come in a wide variety of materials and colors.

I have compiled a number of excerpts from various sources to give you an overview regarding gloves.

Blue Leather Gloves
Holly Sheen Collection
American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge or Book of 7223 Receipts and Facts: A Whole Library of Subjects Useful to Every Individual, by T. Webster and Mrs. Parkes (1856)
Gloves are made of various materials; leather, silk, linen thread, cotton thread, cotton cloths, and worsted. The good qualities of gloves are strength, warmth in winter, coolness in summer, elasticity in fitting well, and to be well sewed in the seams. There is a distinction, also, between those which will bear washing and such as will not; likewise in the manner of sewing. 

Of leather gloves there are a great many kinds, according to the quality of the material or the uses for which they are required. Of these the principal are:

Kid gloves, the most beautiful, from their softness, thinness, and elasticity, fitting the hand almost like a second skin. They are white, and dyed of all colours, but white kid is always worn in full dress. Limeric gloves…..Beaver gloves….Woodstock gloves…..Buck-skin….Doe-skin….Tan leather….

Thread gloves are either of linen or cotton thread; but it is the former only that are properly known in the shops by the name of thread gloves….They are a remarkably cool wear in the summer….

Cotton gloves are the cheapest of all and are dyed of various colours….

Jean, sateen, and cambric gloves are cut out of cotton cloth of these names, and sewed together , their use is confined to women.

Silk gloves….The French white are the best; they are also black, and coloured…Gloves are now also made remarkably cheap of spun silk.

Worsted gloves are of many kinds……Worsted gloves, though not so elegant as others, have a great advantage in their real warmth in cold weather.

The above gloves, of silk, cotton, and worsted, and thread, are now generally woven in the loom; knit gloves formerly so common, being seldom to be met with….Elastic wristbands to gloves are a late improvement.



Lavender Leather Gloves
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gloves, Past and Present, by Willard M. Smith
It was not until the thirteenth century that the ladies of Europe blossomed forth in gloves—not of the mitten variety, but boasting four fingers as well as a thumb. The first to be introduced for the fair sex were made of linen, of simple design, and reached to the elbows to accommodate the short-sleeved gowns of the period. Not before Queen Elizabeth’s time, however, did the elaborately embroider, bejeweled and perfumed glove captivate woman’s fancy and satisfy her feminine dreams of beauty and extravagance.

….The truth of the matter was, French glovemakers early had won the first place in Europe. Struggle as she might, it is exceedingly doubtful whether her rival across the Channel [England] ever could have equaled her prestige. In the seventeenth century, Paris and Genoble enjoyed the monopoly of the glove markets of Europe…During the eighteenth century, however, these cities began to cope with Germany, Italy, Austria, and even Russia, in glove-making.

…About the year 1819, Vallet d’Artois, a French glove manufacturer, invented steel punches in three sizes, each of which would cut, or punch, out of leather two dozen gloves at once. This invention was the first step toward the introduction of modern machinery into the glove industry….

By minutely studying hands in the Hospital of Grenoble, [Xavier] Jouvain discovered and wrote out….thirty-two different sizes of hands. He furthermore recognized five types…this made three-hundred-and-twenty different numbers of gloves…he had discovered the caliber [pattern] in 1834 [and patented it]…

A later contribution to the technique of the glove was the modern style of fastener, introduced about 1855, by M. Raymond of Grenoble….Roux gives credit to Raymond for all the various changes and improvements in glove fasteners which we have today.

At the Opera by William Powell Frith
Gloves, by Valerie Cumming
At the beginning of the seventeenth century it was possible to buy all three types of glove that are available to us today, namely leather, fabric and knitted gloves....

--Regarding leather gloves--
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were a series of inventions in the textile industry and allied trades which mechanized many processes which had previously depended on the employment of large numbers of handworkers. Many of these advances were resisted, either by workers who were afraid of losing their livelihood, or by the master craftsmen who felt that no machine was capable of rivalling the skills and experience of trained workers……It was left to Xavier Jouvin, a young French medical student who came from Grenoble, the centre of French glovemaking, to develop this idea….he invented a glove pattern or caliber which he patented in 1834….All modern methods of glove sizing and pattern cutting are based on Jouvin’s system.

The other major development which speeded up glove manufacture was the adaptation of the sewing machine to the finicky and specialized stitching of the glove trade.

--Regarding fabric and knitted gloves—
Gloves or mittens of linen, silk or cotton and cut out and sewn in the manner of leather gloves, were not originally considered an adjunct of the glovemaking trade. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were usually made and supplied by the milliner or dressmaker….The skills required were essentially dressmaking ones, and the gloves or mittens made from fabric were often ordered or purchased because they complemented a particular dress, and because they were cooler and lighter to wear in warm weather or crowded rooms. Their major disadvantage was that they were rarely well fitting, and after one of two wearings they quickly lost their shape and any pretense of fit…..Today fabric gloves are considered a separate category from knitted gloves, but the two areas overlapped considerably during the period 1770-1870.

 
--The etiquette—
The etiquette of glove wearing was an important feature of nineteenth-century life…

The attributes of the perfect lady, the ideal to which many nineteenth-century writers and journalists in women’s magazines directed the aspirations of the susceptible included small hands and small feet. Hands could be made to appear smaller by being mercilessly crammed into tight gloves (it is no accident that glove stretchers appeared at this time to assist the vain purchaser in easing their gloves)...…

Gloves 1860-80 -- Short leather gloves with long lines of pointing on the back of the hand were worn by men and women of all classes in the latter half of the 19th century…..


Glove Making, The Art & The Craft, by Gwen Emlyn-Jones
As a matter of personal ornament, gloves—as distinct from utilitarian gloves—do not seem to have been in general use in Britain until about the thirteenth century, when women began to wear them, usually of linen and reaching the elbow. It was Queen Elizabeth, some three centuries later, who definitely fixed the glove as part of the etiquette and manners of social life.

Perfumed gloves became so universal that they were often given at the universities to college tenants as well as to guests of distinction. They are mentioned by Shakespeare. Winter’s Tale sings of ‘Gloves as sweet as damask rose’, and in Much Ado About Nothing Hero says to Beatrix—‘These gloves the Count sent me, they are an excellent perfume.’ Incidentally, Shakespeare’s father was a glover.



Lady with Gloves
Holly Sheen Collection
Hints on Etiquette (1837)
[To men] Do not insist upon pulling off your glove on a very hot day when you shake hands with a lady. If it be off, why, all very well; but it is better to run the risk of being considered ungallant than to present a clammy ungloved hand.

[Both sexes] Always wear your gloves in church or in a theatre.

[Women] Ladies should never dine with their gloves on – unless their hands are not fit to be seen.


The Behavior Book: A Manual for Ladies (1855)
Above all, do not travel in white kid gloves. Respectable women never do.

It is not admissible to try on kid gloves in a store. After buying a pair, ask for the glove-stretcher, (which they keep in all good shops, for the convenience of the customers,) and then stretch the gloves upon it, unless you have a glove-stretcher at home. This will render them easy to put on when you take them into wear. Glove-stretchers are to be bought at the variety stores; or ought to be. They will save many a new glove from tearing.


The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, or Book of 7223 Receipts and Fact (1859) P. 998

#5907
Kid gloves, the most beautiful, from their softness, thinness, and elasticity, fitting the hand almost like a second skin. They are white, and dyed of all colours, but white kid is always worn in full dress.

#5908
Gloves are made of various materials; leather, silk, linen thread, cotton thread, cotton cloths, and worsted. The good qualities of gloves are strength, warmth in the winter, coolness in summer, elasticity in fitting well, and to be well sewed in the seams. There is a distinction, also, between those which will bear washing and such as will not; likewise in the manner of sewing.

#5909
Machines have been lately invented for sewing leather gloves, by which the process is performed more accurately, and which reduces the price.

#5910
Thread gloves are either of linen or cotton thread; but it is the former only that are properly known in the shops by the name of thread gloves, though it is now a common practice to pass off cotton thread for linen thread. They are a remarkably cool wear in summer, and bear washing perfectlyly; they are sometimes of unbleached yarn.

#5911
Cotton gloves are the cheapest of all, and are dyed of various colours; being warm, they are much in use for common wear.

#5914
Silk gloves; these are of various qualities, determined by their weight and the neatness of the workmanship. The French white are the best; they are also black, and coloured. A figured silk net glove has lately come much into use among ladies; it is extremely elegant, and cool in summer. Gloves are now also made remarkably cheap of spun silk.

#5915
Worsted gloves are of many kinds…..Worsted gloves, though not so elegant as other, have a great advantage in their real warmth in cold weather…….Elastic wristbands to gloves are a late improvement.


Cotton Gloves
Metropolitan Museum of Art
P. 1076

#6476
Wash-leather gloves, as their name implies, may be easily washed with soap and water; when nearly dry, the fingers should be stretched with a piece of wood.

#6477

White and coloured kid gloves are more difficult to clean; but it is said they may be cleaned perfectly by laying them on a clean towel, rubbing them with a piece of flannel dipped in a hot, strong lather of white soap, till the dirt is removed, using as little water as possible. Hang them up at a distance from the fire to dry gradually, and after they are quite dry, pull out the shrivels and stretch them on the hand.

Peterson’s, February 1860
A Paris letter writer states that, as an addition to the ball-room toilet, the distinguished perfumer and glove-maker, Faguer, stitches the white kid gloves with blue, pink, or violet silk, according to the color of the robe with which the gloves are to be worn. The glove, fastened with two buttons on the back of the wrist, is also a novelty.

Peterson’s, April 1860
There is a new caprice in gloves, which has the merit of novelty, if not of beauty—none other than the long Spanish gloves, embroidered in gold or silver, and which will soon, they say, become indispensable additions to a grand toilet.

Peterson’s, September 1860
Kid gloves, or those of Saxon leather embroidered, may now, more easily than ever, be found to match the colors of the dress, for we see them of several new tints, such as gillyflower, deep green, and blue; but very light gloves, as straw or maize, will always be the most stylish, and the only ones that form a suitable complement to an elegant toilet.

Peterson’s, October 1860
The Venetian gloves, which we noticed last winter as a great novelty, are now quite popular. These gloves are embroidered, and bound with a color contrasting with that of the leather, and fasted above the wrist by six small gilt buttons.

Etiquette For All or Rules of Conduct (1861)
Gloves, trifling as they may appear, give the finishing touch to a lady’s dress. They should invariably be worn when out of doors, whether visiting, shopping, at church, concerts, or any place of amusement or public resort. White gloves are worn only in full dress; the colour of the dress should regulate the hues of those worn on other occasions.

English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, by C. Willett Cunnington
1861--
Paris kid [gloves], two button….one button…
1862--
Gauntlet gloves for wearing with ‘yachting jackets’


Peterson’s, April 1862
Kid gloves of light color, with one or two buttons, and embroidered in little squares at the back of the hand, are the most distingue.

Peterson’s, February 1864
These now indispensable articles of the toilet were not generally deemed necessary in England until the days of Queen Anne, although their origin is of sufficient antiquity for Xenophon to mention them as a proof of the effeminancy of the Persians. We have Cicero’s authority for saying their use was long customary with the Romans. In the middle ages, gloves were used only by the aristocracy of England, and highly ornament. Even when general in Queen Anne’s time, they were so highly esteemed as to form a customary New Year’s gift.

Peterson’s Magazine, December 1864
Those pleasing hues of yellow, brown, or tan color, are readily imparted to leather gloves, by this simple process; Steep saffron in soft, boiling water for twelve hours; then, having sewed up the tops of the gloves to prevent the dye from staining the insides, wet them over with a sponge dipped into the liquid. The quantity of saffron, as well as of water, depends on how much dye maybe wanted, and their relative proportions on the depth of color required. A common teacup will contain quite sufficient in quantity for a single pair of gloves.

Ecru Leather Gloves
Holly Sheen Collection
Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1860
Where dancing is expected to take place, no one should go without new kid gloves; nothing is so revolting as to see one person in an assembly ungloved, especially where the heat of the room, and the exercise together, are sure to make the hands redder than usual.....

Straw-colored gloves, with two buttons, and worked with lavender color.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1861
…The gloves have two buttons at the wrist and scalloped tops.

The Josephine gloves, of a peculiar cut, and the Mathilde glove, bordered at the wrist with a row of dahlia leaves, stamped out, are to be seen on the hands of our belles.

White bonnets are the most becoming to all complexions, but should almost invariably have white strings, to admit of any color dress being worn, as strings of an opposite and not harmonious contrast will spoil the whole appearance of the toilet. The same remark may be applied to the gloves, which should be in strict union with the dress, and if possible, be obtained of the same hue, and where not, steel or stone, or drab-colored or black, for ordinary wear, and lemon-colored for dress.


Godey’s, Lady’s Book, 1862
Gants de Swede, or undressed kid gloves with embroidered backs, are now very fashionable. They are to be had of all colors and styles, and are less expensive than the finished kid gloves.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1863
Uniformity of color is one of the principal characteristics of a fashionable toilet at the present day. In Paris, ladies adopt one color for bonnet, mantle, dress, gloves, boots, and parasol. Frequently, also, the petticoat is of the same color.

To Wash White Thread Gloves and Stockings—
These articles are so delicate as to require great care in washing, and they must not on any account be rubbed. Make a lather of white soap and cold water, and put it into a saucepan. Soap the gloves or stockings well, put them in, and set the saucepan over the fire. When they have come to a hard boil, take them off, and when cool enough for your hand, squeeze them in the water. Having prepared a fresh cold lather, boil them again in that. Then take the pan off the fire, and squeeze them well again, after which they can be stretched, dried, and then ironed on the wrong side.


Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1864
We saw at Stewart’s quite a novelty in kid gloves. They were of light colors covered with little waving lines or small stars or pin dots. We mention these merely as a novelty, for they are far from pretty. We particularly admire the buff, stitched with black, and the pure white ones.

Silk gloves have just appeared with Tartan gauntlets, and we suppose will be adopted.


Hillgrove’s Ball Room Guide and Practical Dancer (1863)
The gloves should fit to a nicety.

Gloves should be removed at the supper-table. Servants in waiting are the only persons privileged to wear them.


The Fashionable Dancer’s Casket or the Ball-Room Instructor (1856)
The gloves should fit to a nicety.


Rose O'Neal Greenhow with gloves that "fit to a nicety!"

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

1860s Ladies Wore Earrings!

Victorian ladies loved earrings!

Not every woman of the 1860s wore earrings, of course. But with hairstyles generally showing the earlobes once again, earrings returned to popularity. Earrings varied in size from petite little dangles to larger ‘drop’ earrings.

Photographs, paintings, and fashion magazines of the era all featured earrings on ladies.

Below is a page from Le Mode Illustree, a popular fashion periodical from the era. Notice there are two earring designs feature on it. The date is December 25, 1864.



They Were Affordable 

By the mid-1860s, the industrial revolution had been underway for quite some time. This opened up many new techniques and materials used for jewelry.  Faux jewels had been in use for centuries, but now cheaper metals had been developed also. Ladies of the middling classes, not just the wealthy, could now afford to wear jewelry.

They Were Worn By All Ages

Also, just like now, a wide range of ages wore earrings. Photographs and paintings show young girls, middle-aged ladies, and older ladies all wearing earrings.

Young Girls Wearing Earrings





No Posts, Screws or Clips

In the 1860s, ears were pierced for earrings. Sources differ as to exactly when, but screwback, clip-on, and post earrings were not invented until decades later. Earring backs were usually simple 'shepherds hooks' and some also had a latch for the hook.

Don't you love this lady's massive earrings? They appear to be cameos, likely coordinating with her brooch.



I enjoy creating earrings using some of the materials and motifs that were popular in the 1860s. Here's a peek at a few of the items I currently have listed.

Click here to see more! 




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Victorian Bonnet Veils - Not Just for Mourning

Yes, veils were worn for mourning. However, veils were not just for mourning. Veils were a common, practical fashion accessory in the 1860s and were worn for several reasons.

  • Veils protected the eyes from the sun's glare, just like sunglasses do now.

  • Veils protected the face from flying insects and dust. Remember, buggies, wagons and horse-backing riding didn't provide windshields! 

  • Veils offered a lady privacy. They created a personal space for her, even in a public place.

As you can see from this CDV, veils were worn with both bonnets and hats. These ladies have pulled their veils back so you can see their faces. 



Veils have been worn for centuries so ladies wearing them in the 1860s was not a new idea. Veils were worn by young and old alike. Here is both an older lady and a young lady wearing one.



Regardless of race, income and social position, many ladies wore them. 



They were appropriate for both winter and summer weather. 



Veils generally come in a half-oval shape or some rectangular configuration. They seem to be predominantly black or white, but they can also come in colors such as blue, green, and brown. The following snippets from fictional works of the day will illustrate.

Godey’s Lady's Book, 1861
My Ward
She was muffled up in furs, woolens, shawls till she was nearly as broad as she was long, and wore a heavy brown veil.

Peterson’s Magazine, 1864
Fanny’s Flirtation
As the vehicle drew up, in obedience to my summons, a glance inside discovered two females—one somewhere between sixty and a hundred and fifty, and the other composed principally of green veil drawn well over the face...

Peterson’s Magazine, 1864
The Lost Estate
She stopped and looked after him, thrusting the brown veil aside that covered her face.

Littell’s Living Age, Volume 74, by Eliakim Littell, Robert S. Littell (1862)
Chronicles of Carlingford
He went that way—that way, look!—in a cab, with somebody in a blue veil.




I love this lovely yet practical Victorian accessory! In fact, I offer bonnet veils in my Etsy shop. My veils are copied from an original veil in my collection.

Available at Southern Serendipity

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Vulcanite: A Fashion Trend

Rubber Victorian jewelry? Yes indeed!

Vulcanite is a substance formed by combining sulphur and India rubber, a natural rubber, and then heating - or vulcanizing - the mixture. It becomes a hard black material, originally intended to take the place of ebony wood. Charles Goodyear is generally given credit for developing the process and his patent occurred in 1844.

Vulcanite can be various colors, but brown or black seem to be the most common. Though vulcanite can be polished to a gloss, it is never as glassy looking as jet. Also, vulcanite pieces are molded rather than carved - a helpful clue when identifying an old piece of jewelry.

Seen on Morning Glory Antiques
Vulcanite jewelry was at the height of popularity during the Victorian era. It was considered fashion jewelry, not just mourning jewelry. Black in general was a fashion color. Every imaginable type of jewelry was made from vulcanite - earrings, brooches, watch fobs, lockets, etc.

Seen on eBay
Vulcanite was manufactured as black jewelry, but over time it can turn brown. Vulcanite is often mistaken for gutta percha. However, gutta percha was used for more functional items like boot soles and gussets, buttons, carriage belts, tubs, pails, cables, golf balls, etc. Little jewelry was made from gutta percha so when viewing jewelry identified as gutta percha, you can know that it is more likely vulcanite.

Seen on eBay
A couple of tricks in trying to identify the material will be (a) to rub the piece and if it is vulcanite, it will smell like rubber; and (b) taste (yes, actually lick it) the piece and if it is salty, it is gutta percha.

I carry vulcanite earrings in my shop, made from genuine, vintage vulcanite beads. Notice the resemblance to the original Victorian pair in my collection in the top picture!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fichu: A Fun, Frilly Fashion Garment

A Victorian fichu was a gauzy, frilly, large collar or small shawl and was a carry-over from the 18th century. The word seems to have begun as a French term for a 'carelessly thrown on' neckerchief. Eventually it also became popular in England, the United States, and elsewhere.

Nineteenth century fichus became more elegant and changed shape from those of the 18th century. In the Victorian era they were a suitable accessory for day wear as well as evening wear. They varied in shape and style from a small lacey confection to a longer, more dramatic fashion statement.

Following are a few quotes from Godey’s and Peterson’s, leading ladies magazines of the day.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Peterson’s, June 1864
The Eugenie Fichu

This fichu is intended for an evening or a dinner toilet and makes an admirable finish to a dress, besides obviating the necessity of having any further trimming on the bodice. The fichu forms a kind of bodice, open in front, and with two long ends before and behind. It may be made in any bright-colored silk, and is covered with white tulle or net, put plain over the silk, with the exception of the back, which is arranged in five puffings from the waist. The fichus is trimmed round with a narrow black lace, and a wide white lace or blonde, divided by a narrow row of velvet. It is further ornamented with black lace leaves applied on the net or tulle. These leaves can be purchased separately, or they may be cut out from old pieces of black lace, the foundation of which is worn out. The dress has a trimming at the bottom to correspond.


Peterson’s, January 1864


Our fifth engraving is a fichu, trimmed in purple or blue, as the wearer’s taste may dictate.

Peterson’s, February 1864

For dinner or evening dresses, low bodies are very generally worn with a cape or fichu in black and white lace or guipure. For young ladies, silk dresses are often made with a low body, and a small squared shaped cape of the same material to wear over it, the body is then high, and if wished to be worn low, the silk cape is replaced by a tulle fichu, so that the dress is equally appropriate for walking or evening attire.


Barrington House Collection

Godey’s, August 1860

Fichu for summer wear, suited to dinner or evening dress, it is quote as graceful and a newer shape than the favorite Marie Antoinette. The bows may be either of black velvet, or a shade of satin ribbon harmonizing with the dress.

Godey’s, September 1860

Fichu for a low corsage or evening wear. It is of black lace over white; the medallions and ruche being of ribbon. Two rows of good black lace surround it.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Godey’s, June 1861

The Antionette fichu, with ends crossing either behind or before, is also very much worn with muslin, barege or jaconet dresses. This fichu supplies the place of a high body, and makes, with spencers, a variety in the toilet. It is composed of white muslins, sometimes of either black or white lace.




Seen on Daguerre

Godey’s, August 1862

Besides the white waists, which are worn with low-neck bodies, there are numerous styles of fichus made of muslin, tulle, or lace, and trimmed with ruches, velvets, and bows of ribbon….Many of the fichus cross on the breast, and terminate in long, rounded ends trimmed with velvet, or in pointed ends which fasten underneath the sash or waistband.


My Re-Creation

I have a lovely original fichu in my collection and I decided to offer fichus in my shop based on it! Below is one of my creations designed from the original. 

Available on Southern Serendipity

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Turquoise in the 1860s

Turquoise was a popular gemstone during the 1860s, but it had a long history of popularity. Other cultures had valued turquoise and used it decoratively for centuries before.

Turquoise made its entrance into the western world primarily through Persia and Egypt, thanks to Napoleon’s inroads to North Africa via his military campaigns. Shortly after the 1798 Battle of the Nile, wealthy women across Europe began wearing the stone in their jewelry.

Persian turquoise differs from turquoise mined in the United States in that it has no visible matrix. Matrix is the black or brown veining that is common here in our country. Instead, the turquoise that Victorians were familiar with was a fine robin’s-egg blue. To our eyes it almost looks fakey since it has no veining, but it was very much in prized in the 1860s and continued to increase in popularity.

Here are some lovely examples of mid-Victorian turquoise jewelry.

Seen on Morning Glory Antiques
Seen on eBay
Seen on Ruby Lane Antiques

Just for fun, I occasionally incorporate a little turquoise into my jewelry such as this pair of earrings.

Purchase at Southern Serendipity